Australia's history is paradoxical. It has some of the oldest rocks on earth, yet its recorded history is relatively brief, usually measured from the first British colony established at what is now the city of Sydney in 1788. Yes, the Dutch and French had landed at a number of sites on the continent before this, but their visits didn't result in any long-term settlements. Also, as I noted in an earlier column (Flannery, 2011), the British pirate William Dampier landed on the west coast of Australia in 1699. When I was there last summer, I visited one of those landing sites, Shark Bay, which according to Alex George (1999) is almost as wild now as it was 400 years ago. One of the thrills of my trip to Western Australia was seeing Dampiera alata in bloom with its beautiful...

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